Walkers, cyclists and artists flock to the Yorkshire Dales to enjoy the lovely limestone scenery, numerous natural wonders and iconic railway line.
The Yorkshire Dales are a gorgeous blend of limestone hills, lush green valleys and heather-covered moors dotted with stone-built villages. Located in Yorkshire, in Northeast England, the region spans the rolling Pennine hills. It is protected as a national park and is an irresistible wonderland for outdoor enthusiasts, from cyclists and walkers to cavers and rock-climbers.
The park covers numerous valleys, or ‘dales’, each with its own character. The southern dales are most popular, but the remote north is also home to unspoilt scenery and spectacular waterfalls.
Don’t miss Malham Cove, a breathtaking stone amphitheatre with sheer rock, and be sure to climb to its deeply scored limestone plateau, which featured in the seventh Harry Potter film. Another natural highlight is the dales’ vast labyrinth of caves which shelter stunning caverns of stalagmites and stalactites and one of the country’s largest chambers, Gaping Gill.
Countless outdoor adventures are on offer, from climbing the highest crags to delving down into the deepest caves. Walkers can choose anything from gentle strolls to epic feats of endurance. The iconic Three Peaks Challenge sees hikers tackle three separate summits in one day. Several long-distance trails pass through the park, including the Coast to Coast which goes right the way across Northern England.
There’s just as much choice for cyclists, with superb gentle pedals through the northern dales, a long circular route and epic journeys such as the Way of the Roses, which spans Northern England from sea to sea.
Explore in comfort
However, you needn’t break a sweat to enjoy the region. In fact, one of the best ways to explore the beautiful scenery is on board the world-famous Settle to Carlisle Railway. It’s a stunning ride of 72 miles (120km) through 14 tunnels and over no fewer than 20 Victorian-era viaducts, all built almost entirely by hand in the 1800s.
Drivers are also in for a treat, with plenty of scenic road trips and picnic spots to discover. Having four wheels also gives you the freedom to hop between the pretty towns and cultural attractions. Explore historic sites from the atmospheric ruins at Bolton Abbey to medieval fortresses in Middleham and Castle Bolton, and stop at the Dales Countryside Museum for an initiation into the region’s rural traditions.
Travel a short way outside the park and you’ll find more treats in the picturesque town of Knaresborough and at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Gardens.
Relax in style
Then after all that country air, it’s good to know that comfort awaits in cosy local pubs, hotels and restaurants. Stop in at traditional country inn The Green Dragon, which is next to England’s largest single drop waterfall, or call in at Tan Hill Inn, England’s highest pub. Alternatively treat yourself to a stay in the deluxe castle hotel Swinton Park, with its onsite cookery school, award-winning restaurant, spa and range of typical country pursuits from horse-riding to falconry.